Suicide Policy and Procedures
In the United States, suicide claims 30,000 lives each year and is the 11th leading cause of death. Policies and procedures have been developed in order to address the problem of suicide in the American population.
There is not one single factor that can identify a person as at-risk for suicide. However, certain factors have been identified in people who attempt and commit suicide. Males, teenagers and people living in urban areas are at a higher risk. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the risk increases with “unemployment, single status, low income and receipt of pension or social security benefit.”
Nearly half of those who committed suicide had been admitted to a psychiatric facility at some point, with the greatest risk during admission and the week following discharge.
In 1999, the Surgeon General’s office called for increased awareness, intervention with enhanced services and programs, and an advancement in the study of suicide prevention. This policy sought to expand public awareness of suicide and its risk factors by providing information about the facts of suicide, enhancing awareness of resources and reducing the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse.
Intervention included improving services, training, community resources and media coverage. In addition, this policy sought to enhance research to understand suicide risk, evaluation of effectiveness and monitoring of programs, and development of new prevention strategies.
The Centers for Disease Control have initiated many programs aimed at suicide prevention. Public health initiatives, community based interventions, youth violence prevention, surveys and research are all intended to better understand, intervene in and prevent suicide.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Indian Health Service (IHS), National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)/Center for Mental Health Services have developed policies and procedures for the prevention of suicide. They focus on initiatives such as integrating primary care with mental health care, providing school guidelines and school depression screenings, and providing grants to increase the number of crisis programs that offer hotline services certified in suicide prevention.
In addition, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center was designed to identify, review and distribute information about best practices in suicide prevention. Its focus is on evidence-based programs, expert consensus and adherence to standards.
There are continued efforts to advocate for suicide policies and procedures. Advocates support increased funding for youth suicide prevention programs, legislation to make health insurance coverage for mental disorders comparable to that of other disorders, early intervention and prevention strategies for the elderly and additional outreach, education, screening and resources for veterans.